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VOICE NEWSLETTER IRELAND‘S CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION BY STACY WEISFELD Recent unpublished findings from the International Energy Agency have estimated that carbon emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, making the need for the government to take real action to cut carbon emissions even more urgent. During the past year VOICE has been working on Irish climate change legislation. Part of this work involved preparing a submission on the Climate Change Response Bill 2010. The proposed legislation included legally-binding carbon emissions targets with an annual reduction of 2.5%, a 40% total reduction by 2030 and an 80% total reduction by 2050 (all based on 2008 levels). While some have argued that these targets are too high, they are in fact lower than existing EU targets, which are based on 1990 levels. VOICE welcomed the targets set in the Bill but we believed that these targets were too far in the future to hold the government responsible and therefore advocated for legally binding 5-year carbon budgets, as the UK has implemented. These budgets are necessary to ensure that the government is constantly reducing emissions, thus guaranteeing accountability from each government, and incentivising each administration to take action rather than leave the issue for future administrations. Without budgets, 2020 is the closest target within the Bill. Such a target would enable the government to continue with high annual emissions until 2019, at

which point drastic measures would be needed to meet what is effectively an emissions target for one specific year, ie. 2020. Although such a course of action would comply with the targets, the emissions will have already done their damage. The public debate plays an important role in the implementation of domestic climate legislation, yet the debate surrounding it was hijacked by myths. Most notably was the claim that Ireland would have to reduce its cattle population by 40%. In reality, this would only be the case if agriculture were asked to reduce its emissions by 30%, yet there are no sector specific requirements in the Bill. The Climate Change Bill will not penalize agriculture. These misconceptions had a huge impact on the success of the Bill. For exa mp le th e a f ore men tion ed misunderstanding on the effect on agriculture influenced the Bill as it was debated in the Seanad. With the dissolution of the government, the Green Party left government without securing a Climate Change Bill. The new coalition has pledged a Climate Change Bill. Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, intends to publish a consultation later this year and the Bill should be passed by the end of 2012. VOICE welcomes a new initiative for the Climate Change Bill but are concerned with its delayed timeline. The government‘s current focus is the economic situation, and as the Climate Change Bill raises no immediate revenue it may be seen as less important. However, it is crucial that the government recognises the true potential and economic opportunity that a transition to a more efficient, low carbon economy represents for Ireland and its future. 1

In this Issue... 2

Election 2011


Review of Programme for Government


100 Days in Office




VOICE‘s Patron Darina Allen


Climate Change and Sustainability


Climate Change versus Celebrities


What is Sustainability?


How to...

6 6

Household Waste Workshop Carry out Your Household Waste Audit

7 7

Cope with a Dry Summer Be a Sustainable Consumer


Book Review


The Post Carbon Reader: managing the 21st century‘s sustainability crises


Comings & Goings

VOICE would like to thank Robert Pocock, VOICE‘s anti-fluoridation campaigner, for his long years of hard work with VOICE to end fluoridation of drinking water in Ireland. Having fought the good fight for many years, Robert has moved on and is no longer working with VOICE. We wish him every success in his ongoing campaign work.

If you have any ideas, suggestions or thoughts on any topics raised in our Summer Newsletter we would like to hear from you. Contact us at or 01 642 5741

Summer 2011

N e w s le t te r



General Election 2011 was a historic election. It saw the highest ever turnout of the Irish electorate and a number of political parties realised record results, for better or worse. The dissolution of the government saw the formation of a Fine Gael-Labour coalition, led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. The economic crisis dominated the media meaning that environmental issues were disappointingly, if predictably, absent from the policy debates. Ambitions to reform Ireland and adapt to new realities will fall short if resource limits are not adapted to. The economic and social impacts of hitting a resource wall such as peak oil are sure to dwarf those of the current economic crisis. Therefore, we need policies to reflect this. On release of the new coalition‘s Programme for Government (PfG), VOICE

was on hand to give an analysis of the coalitions approach to environmental issues. Here‘s what we think: Climate Change & Energy: Little progress on present commitments and a big step back on peat, but a Climate Change Bill and reform on renewables are welcome. Waste: Comprehensive policy that moves away from landfill, but few up-stream solutions. Water: Creation of state-owned water utility. Worrying lack of clarity and no mention of sustainable catchment

FINE GAEL 100 DAYS IN OFFICE June 16th marked 100 days in office for the new government—an appropriate time to review their progress. The focus of efforts so far has been heavily towards banking, jobs and financial reform. The jobs initiatives, reversal of minimum wage and the cut in ministerial pay representing a selection of their achievements to date. However, here at VOICE we are more interested in achievements that impact the environment.

management or water quality protection. Foresty: Overly focussed on forestry‘s bioenergy potential with no mention of sustainable forest management. Food Security & GMO: Few measures to improve Ireland‘s food security and no clear position on GMO. Fisheries: Better marine spatial planning and some sustainability measures but a worrying stance on Common Fisheries Policy reform. Sustainable Planning & Transport: Some welcome ideas on more holistic, integrated planning but an opportunity missed on National Spatial Strategy review. Governance & the EU: A welcome pledge to ratify Aarhus and greater Dáil scrutiny of EU legislation. For an indepth analysis from VOICE on the Programme for Government log onto our website at


Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Táinaiste Eamon Gilmore

In the above article we discussed the environmental merits of the Programme for Government. Now we undertake a short review of what the government have achieved to date on environmental issues. Climate Change and Energy As discussed on page 1, the Climate Change Bill has been delayed until the end of 2012. But the government has launched a new energy initiative, called Better Energy. Waste VOICE welcomes twp policy initiatives in this area: a public consultation on a packaging levy (ending August 5th), and a public consultation on the reorganisation of household waste collection (ending September 2nd). 2



Water There has been some confusion surrounding the impending water charges. However, it is clear that the charges themselves will be based on consumption above a free allocation. Consumption will be monitored using a household meter that will be installed in every house around the country; however, a definite timeline for meter installation has yet to be confirmed. Green Public Procurement On May 25th, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan published the National Action Plan on Green Public Procurement draft for public consultation. This draft puts forward seven priority product groups for which the public sector should ‗green‘ their tendering processes: construction, energy, food and catering services, transport, cleaning products and services, paper, uniforms and other textiles. This consultation period finished on July 8th, with the National Action Plan hopefully finalised later this year.

For more information on issues raised in this article please view:

Summer 2011

N e w s le t te r



“When I was a child, waste was not an option...Waste has become a way of life. People aren’t even shocked when they learn that almost 30 percent of our food ends up in the bin” Darina Allen is a busy woman. Besides running the Ballymaloe Cookery School and Gardens located in the middle of its own 100-acre organic farm in East Cork, she is also an accomplished food writer, newspaper columnist, cookbook author and television presenter.

But it‘s about more than just economics when it comes to respecting food. At Ballymaloe, the ethos is fresh, seasonal, locallyproduced food. ―This food is more interesting and enriches our diet. I feel very strong that a lot of our food should come from Ireland for health and economic reasons‖.

And yet she still finds time to campaign on environmental and food-related issues, such as food waste and genetically modified (GM) food.

Darina sees good food as central to the health of Irish people. ―We have seen a huge growth in allergies in Ireland as our systems are subjected to trace elements that we‘re not used to‖.

Growing up in Laois as one of nine children, Darina has always been conscious of the value of a clean, healthy environment – and making the most of what you have. ―When I was a child, waste was not an option,‖ said Darina. ―It was life before electricity: there were no fridges or freezers‖ All that has changed, however and today Darina thinks we are too quick to throw food away. ―Waste has become a way of life. People aren‘t even shocked when they learn that almost 30 percent of our food ends up in the bin‖. Part of the problem is the ―de-skilling‖ of the public, as Darina puts it, as people no longer trust their own judgement when it comes to food safety. ―Growing up, we had to judge food by our senses. Nowadays, people rely too much on sell-by dates‖. In this way, a lot of perfectly good food ends up in the bin simply because of the date printed on the packaging.

VOICE Patron Darina Allen The challenge of re-skilling is one that Darina has taken up with gusto. Her most recent book Forgotten Skills of Cooking was inspired by a student at her cookery school who was about to throw out some over whipped cream, unaware that she was well on her way to making butter. ―Nowadays people can‘t afford to waste food,‖ said Darina.

Darina‘s commitment on fresh, natural food has seen her involved in a number of campaigns, including the current petition against a possible ban on the sale of raw milk in Ireland. ―This is about having the right to choose to consume raw milk,‖ said Darina. ―More and more research is pointing to the health benefits of raw milk, particularly against allergies and asthma.‖ Similarly, Darina is deeply concerned about the potential impact of genetically modified (GM) foods in Ireland. ―Even if you forget about the health issues, Ireland could squander its green image.‖ She is also sceptical of research on GM foods by vested interests. ―How can you trust the research? Past research has been proven as overly optimistic.‖ Darina believes we should use the classic environmental yardstick when considering GM foods. ―We should be applying the precautionary principle‖.

Slow Food Ireland, who are currently leading the Raw Milk Petition,

Visit to find out more about food waste in Ireland. Visit to sign the petition against a ban on the sale of raw milk. 3

Summer 2011

N e w s le t te r

Climate Change and Sustainability CLIMATE CHANGE VERSUS CELEBRITIES


The ice juts out over the sea; the surroundings are desolate yet beautiful. The tranquil waters don’t move, they remain still and untouched. The ice cliffs that surround the water gently creak, getting weaker, until the inevitable crash when the ice snaps and slams into the water. The Arctic shelf is slowly disappearing. In this fight against climate change, we question whether celebrities are a help or hindrance. It is now widely understood that those who are suffering the most severe effects of climate change aren‘t the primary cause of it. Instead, it is wealthier nations who are the worst offenders with gas guzzling cars and frequent air travel. Ironically, in recent years it has become increasingly common for those who live these lavish lifestyles, in particular celebrities, to be involved in promoting the effect of such behaviours in relation to climate change. Al Gore, environmental activist and former Vice President of the United States, can be largely credited with putting awareness about climate change into the public eye, resulting in a wave of celebrity support following suit. Examples of such celebrity environmental trend setters include Leonardo DiCaprio, a firm green advocate, who believes global warming is ―the number one environmental challenge we face today‖, and actor Keanu Reeves heralding ―just as we are the cause, we can be the solution, in the age of the great warming.‖

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is an avid green supporter and advocate for effective change

The American rock band 30 Seconds to Mars also used their position in the public-eye to

Although it is essential to question the behaviour of celebrities, we should recognise their ability to reach a large sector of society, who would otherwise be less influenced by the messages of environmental organizations or governmental policy. Al Gore, who is largely credited with putting climate change on the map in the public realm

highlight the impact that climate change is having. They filmed the video for their single ‗A Beautiful Lie‘ in the Arctic Circle in order to highlight the effect that climate change was having on it‘s landscape. The video was released two years after filming and by this time nearly a fourth of the Arctic shelf had disappeared - this loss of sea ice is estimated to be five times the size of Britain.

―Whether we like it or not, celebrities are looked upon by our society as role models,” says Tara Connolly of VOICE Ireland, “Celebrities have significant access to the media and are well positioned to push whichever agenda they so wish. If celebrities help bring the environmental cause, including climate change, to a wider audience then this can only be a good thing. Of course it would be better if celebrities practiced what they preached and minimised their personal impact, but we would be of the opinion that most are genuinely interested in the cause.‖

However despite these examples, many find themselves asking the question: can celebrities be

trusted? It can be argued that their contribution to environmental damage is above average. For example, while the average person may make use of environmentally unfriendly modes of transport, the celebrity lifestyle can often involve more frequent use of these modes of transport. In July 2007 Al Gore organised Live Earth, a series of concerts which took place around the world to bring attention to the problem of climate change. However, the amount of long-distance travel that the musicians had to undertake and the emissions released from these concerts called into question its true green credentials.


UNEP ambassadors, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and award-winning actor Don Cheadle

There‘s no doubt that the lives of celebrities and that of the average person are polls apart. Although we should welcome the public awareness that celebrities can bring to environmental issues, we must also be mindful of whether such figures do indeed practice what they preach. If you would like to have your say on the role that celebrities play within climate change discourse, contact us on:

Summer 2011

N e w s le t te r

Climate Change and Sustainability WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY?




The word ‗sustainability‘ has become common in all realms of society from business to government to individual behaviour. However, despite this it is often not wholly understood and the means that are needed for effective sustainable development are often clouded in confusion. The term ‗sustainable‘ itself has various definitions, but many can be rooted in the 1987 Brundtland Report definition of sustainable development which is ―development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs‖. In other words, we must live in a way that will enable us to meet our present needs whilst ensuring that it will not impact negatively on future generations. Sustainability Point

Illustrating the importance of the three factors in sustainability

Sustainability is a complex system and one that encompasses three pillars: environment, society and economy. The intersection of these three needs represents the area for sustainability, illustrated in the diagram to the left. Like a well balanced three-legged stool, all three pillars of sustainability must be factored in equally if sustainable development is to be achieved. Attaining this balance can be difficult and therefore advice and help is essential. VOICE believes that The Natural Step system can provide just this. The Natural Step (TNS) is a not for profit organisation that was founded in 1989 with the vision of creating a sustainable society. It has developed a myriad of useful tools that both illustrate sustainability in a comprehensible way and help the effective implementation of sustainable development. In Ireland, the TNS system is implemented in organisation by RealEyes Sustainability. RealEyes has found TNS an invaluable tool for explaining and effecting real change.

“The Natural Step provides a definition of sustainability that can be understood and shared by everyone. Most organisations despite their best intentions do not have a definition of sustainability and so find it difficult to strategically plan towards it. TNS removes confusion and provides the clarity that is critical for successfully integrating sustainability into your operations Daragh Anglim, Director of RealEyes Sustainability ltd.

To understand the problem that successful sustainability faces, TNS has developed the Funnel, illustrated in the diagram to the right. This diagram highlights the increasing economic, social and environmental pressures that are occurring in our world today and the ever decreasing margin for action. It highlights the diminishing non-renewable natural resources and eco-system services in relation to the current trend in increased consumption and the surge in population. It follows, that in order to avoid approaching the narrowing unsustainable end of the funnel we must utilise our innovation and creativity to widen the funnel walls and to position ourselves in the running for a lasting and effective sustainable system. TNS‘s approach, The Natural Step Framework, is a comprehensive model for planning in complex systems. This model aides various organisations around the world to successfully incorporate sustainable development into their strategic planning and in turn to effect lasting change. This is achieved through ‗backcasting‘ which involves establishing a vision for the future and then figuring out where you currently are in relation to this vision and working out how you will best get there.

The Natural Step‘s Funnel concept that illustrates narrowing opportunity to move towards sustainability

In a world that has devalued the world sustainability, The Natural Step helps restore meaning by providing a refreshingly accessible and accurate picture.

If you would like more information on The Natural Step and sustainability log onto Their model is openly published and is free for all to use.


Summer 2011

N e w s le t te r

HOW TO. . . HOUSEHOLD WASTE WORKSHOPS With all the talk of national and international environmental policy, it‘s easy to forget that actions at the community or individual level are important contributions to environmental protection. Here at VOICE, we know just how vital public awareness and understanding is to promoting environmental action.


shops dealt with all types of household waste while others focused on the most problematic type of household waste: food waste.

So we were delighted to receive funding to work on local community projects. The funding was granted under the Local Agenda 21 or LA21 programme from four local authorities: North Tipperary, Longford, Meath and Kildare.

Why is food waste such a problem? The answer lies in what happens to food after we throw it in the bin. 66 percent of Irish household waste, including food, ends up in a landfill where it decomposes and creates gas (methane) and liquid (leachate). Methane is a very strong greenhouse gas that has to be collected and burned off. And leachate can pollute local water bodies, such as aquifers and needs to treated with chemicals.

The projects involved carrying out waste workshops with members of local communities. Some work-

But if we aren‘t measuring, we aren‘t managing. And the best way to measure household waste is by

carrying out a household waste audit. Participants were shown how to carry out two types of waste audits: by volume (meaning everything is weighed) and by unit (meaning individual items are counted). The volume method is more accurate but requires a bit more effort and equipment so most opted for the unit method. (See below for instructions on how to carry ou t a volu me - based household waste audit). Overall, the workshops were attended by around 80 people, meaning that 80 households were impacted by the project – a great turnout. We are looking forward to more community workshops in the future as we continue to think globally and act locally.


       

Gloves, both rubber and heavy duty Big tarpaulin


For all the documents you need on how to carry out your audit see: Let us know the results of your household waste audit by emailing us at:

2-3 buckets


Weighing scales (digital read out best) Floor broom Broom and pan Rubbish bags and tags Checklist and pen/paper


Divide house into waste zones: kitchen, bathrooms, living areas, garden Each zone will have waste check list column In each zone, initially weigh the bags of unsorted rubbish Put the waste onto the tarpaulin Sort the waste into relevant categories (see check list) Weigh each category of waste Weigh the residual waste Place all waste into separate waste bags and dispose of correctly

2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Irish FSC forest management standard: There has been great progress on the development of an FSC forest management standard for Ireland, which has now gone to the FSC International team for approval. By the end of the year, the FSC standard should be in place, which will push forward the certification of Irish forests. For more details visit: 6

Summer 2011

N e w s le t te r



I‘ve been watering my plants, fruits and vegetables more regularly of late and have noticed that my water barrel is now only a third full. This is an unusual occurrence as it is usually overflowing, but the beds are dry because there has been very little rainfall over the past month and hence my barrel is not filling up. Is this a sign of things to come? I know I wrote about water shortages and leaking pipes and what we could do about this over the winter. Unfortunately, I believe that there will be a scarcity of water again this summer leading to hose bans and periodic water rationing. What can we do? I have encouraged our members in the past to invest in a water barrel/ butt. There‘s no better time than the present. From an investment of around €50 (basic water butt, diverter and stand) to €100 (more decorative model) you can install the butt to your downpipe. These water butts are available in many hardware shops and big home DIY stores. Instructions are included in the diverter kit and are fairly easy. You just need to cut a bit off your down pipe, insert the diverter and connect

it to your water butt. They hold around 200 litres of water and are very useful for watering the garden, washing your car and filling up the toilet cistern when your water is turned off. Water Butt

For those building a new house or who have space in their back garden, there are companies that will install outside rainwater tanks, either above or below ground, to collect rain water for more expansive uses. Rain water collects in the outside tank which is then pumped up into a water tank in the attic to be used for toilets and washing machines. If there is not enough rainwater, there is an indicator on the tank to fill from the mains instead. The installation of an underground rainwater tank will cost around €2,500, plus you will need an installer to connect to your domestic pipework. If you are building a new house, this may be a good investment if water charges are to be implemented by the end of 2012. There is also the option of installing


an above ground rain water tank for much less. Most of us use 150-190 litres of water per day and if on average you flush an eight litre toilet five times a day (40 l) and wash a load of wash (50 l), that‘s over half of your daily water usage. I have done some quick sums and have calculated that a family of two adults and three children will use approximately 1,000 litres of water/day. It costs the government over €2 to treat each 1,000 litres of water. If they charge us €2.50/1,000 litres, a family of five will be charged €762 a year for their water. If over half of our water usage goes towards toilet flushing, clothes washing and garden use, then installing a rain harvesting system will save around €400 a year. Therefore, if the government doesn‘t raise the charges, the system would pay for itself in around eight years. Additionally, you wouldn‘t be held hostage to future water shortages. If we take care of our water use this summer and ease our consumption, hopefully our water reservoirs will be able to meet our water needs for the coming months.

BE A SUSTAINABLE AND RESPONSIBLE WATER CONSUMER Water is a precious and increasingly scarce resource. As the population grows the demand for water increases with our use becoming progressively unsustainable. Therefore, it is essential that we become responsible and sustainable water consumers in our everyday practices. To help you kick-start a change in your behaviour we have provided six top tips for responsible and sustainable water conservation. For more top tips on how to conserve water, log onto


Be aware of your water footprint

Your Home

Your Garden

Out and About

1. Do not let taps run. If washing up or cleaning vegetables use a basin 2. Keep the time you spend in the shower to a minimum and perhaps invest in a shower head water restricter

3. Avoid using a hose as in one hour it consumes the equivalent to what one family uses in a day. As a replacement use a watering-can. 4. Weed your garden regularly

5. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and get to know sources of free water (fountains, taps, etc.) so that you do not have to buy water 6. Encourage friends, family and work colleagues to implement water tips


Summer 2011

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BOOK REVIEW: THE POST CARBON READER, MANAGING THE 21ST CENTURY’S SUSTAINABILITY CRISES ―So many books, so little time‖ is something I often find myself thinking when I venture into a book shop or browse titles online. Scanning the packed bookshelves, I would believe, without hesitation, that there is a book out there on almost every issue imaginable. Increasingly, this is also the case with books on environmental issues. The mainstreaming of environmental concerns in recent years has led to a flurry of books on a wide variety of topics from the high level policy analysis of Anthony Gidden‘s The


Politics of Climate Change to practical how-to guides such as John Seymour‘s The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency. Such a proliferation of widely distributed and (hopefully) widely read environmental literature is, of course, a good thing. But it does leave us with the problem of figuring out what to read if we want to get a good grasp of the challenges facing the world today. And how will all of these concerns interact with each other in the future as we move towards peak everything? For example, how will fossil fuel shortages affect water supplies? Enter The Post Carbon Reader: a collection of essays that deals with individual subjects like transportation, education and biodiversity but crucially, ties them together into an


integrated picture. The book is divided into 15 sections and further into 34 chapters. The relatively short chapters and systematic arrangement by topic makes this an incredibly accessible resource that is easy to dip in and out of. The list of contributors is impressive with well known names, such as Bill McKibben, Rob Hopkins and Feasta‘s Richard Douthwaite who spend as much time presenting promising solutions as outlining the collective threats. The Post Carbon Reader is an essential read for those of us who struggle to keep up with the latest environmental thinking but is an excellent primer for anyone interested in the interconnected challenges facing our society.

THANK YOU TO GRANT THORNTAN VOICE would like to acknowledge and thank Grant Thornton for their support to VOICE in donating their time and expertise. As a not-for-profit organisation VOICE relies on the generous support of companies like Grant Thornton with a strong ethos of Corporate Social Responsibility in order to carry out our important work on environmental issues.

Contact VOICE a: t: e: w: tw: fb:

9 Upper Mount St., Dublin 2 (01) 642 57 41 @VOICE_Ireland search ‗VOICE environment‘

VOICE and YOU VOICE would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our members and supporters for their help throughout 2011. Your support makes VOICE‘s work possible. Thank you We realise that VOICE readers like to minimise their environmental impact, and that includes receiving post. If you would like to change how you receive your VOICE correspondence or your postal details please email or call VOICE.

Comings and Goings Stacy Weisfeld left VOICE in March of this year to return to the US. From Ohio, Stacy worked on the Climate Change Response Bill 2010 since joining us in January 2011. In May, Orla Power joined VOICE as our Communications & Marketing Intern. With a background in International Relations, Orla has been working on VOICE‘s website & online presence. Niamh Swords, who has a background in Environment & Development Studies, joined VOICE as Communications & Research Intern in June and is the Editor-in-Chief for our Summer Newsletter. We are delighted to welcome a new member to the board of VOICE, Brendan Bartley. Brendan recently retired from National University of Ireland Maynooth where he lectured Urban Geography and Spatial Planning. Printed on 100% recycled paper by Print2K, 32 North Brunswick St, Dublin 1. Editor-in-Chief: Niamh Swords, Sub-Editor: Tara Connolly. Photographs: p1 Dave Reede/All Canada Photos/Corbis, Creative Commons; p2 Piers Dillon Scott, Creative Commons; p4 Creative Commons. 8

Summer Newsletter 2011  

Summer Newsletter 2011

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